Monday, September 11, 2023

The Million Sellers by the Today People (Vocalion VL73868, 1969)--1968 Top 40


My thanks to those who have stuck with my blog--My long absence was due to two factors: 1) bad allergies (it's ragweed time), 2 the fact that I had a post all ready to go, only to realize that it was already at the blog.  Oops.  Posted it in 2020.

I may not have even discovered my error had I not found a preexisting Living Guitars Shindig Zip file in my Music folder.  "Don't tell me..." I thought.  But I had.

And today, we have the Now People.  Er, I mean, now we have the Today People.  An outfit which has two credits at Discogs--this LP, and its follow-up, More Million Sellers (also 1969). All tracks having been recorded in England.  And now you know as much about the Today People as I do!

Like most albums of this type, the emphasis is on "pop" instead of rock, though we do get Ob-La-Di..., Fire (ugh!), and Mony, Mony.  And I only barely remember Fire from its Top 40 days.  Maybe my brain mercifully suppressed the memory.  (Having said that, the "You're gonna burn..." part was used very effectively by the late horror movie host The Ghoul.)

These are all 1968 hits, far as I know.  And I vividly remember not caring for the 1968 Top 40 at the time.  But, in retrospect, the 1968 Top 40 wasn't all that bad.  I think the main irritant was Those Were the Days, which was being featured on an every-other-song basis on AM radio.  I despised the song then, and my opinion has not changed with time.  As to why I despise it, who can say?  Any reasons I might offer would be purely subjective.  Opinions, after all, are belief statements.  They're not empirically testable.  Well, save to the extent that you can "observe" that I despise Those Were the Days.

And why did they have to go with This Guy's in Love With You?  It's one of the few Burt songs that does nothing for me, including in this rendition.  However, I'm sure no one decided, "This is a Burt song Lee isn't crazy about, so let's feature it."  Or... did someone?  (Theremin music)

, meanwhile, is a forecast of awful things to come in rock, though for some reason I lack much back-in-the-day memory of it.  Did my brain suppress the experience?

Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, Harper Valley P.T.A., and Little Arrows have their virtues, however, and I recall that I loved the guitar licks on P.T.A.  I remember an outbreak of fellow elementary school boys mimicking it.  So, maybe my memory of disliking the 1968 Top 40 isn't totally accurate.  (Of course, in real life, there are no degrees of "accurate.") 

And I like What a Wonderful World, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Love Is Blue, though I was, at the time, more into youth-oriented pop.  The best thing about this album is the expertise of the covers--the excellence of the musicianship.  

The follow-up, More Million Sellers (also 1969), actually looks like something I'd genuinely dig.  Goodbye, Get Back, Games People Play, Israelites...  But that one has yet to make a thrift showing.

And some of the local Goodwills have stopped putting out vinyl for store display--they've chosen to auction it on line.  And any sensible collector wouldn't hesitate to spend money on ungraded thrift vinyl, especially minus any chance to examine it.  At any rate, once the news got out that vinyl was collectible, this was interpreted by unsophicated minds as "Records are worth a million-billion dollars."  The auto-generated false dichotomy goes something like, "Vinyl has no particular value/Vinyl is worth tons of dough."  No middle choice--just that ridiculous either/or.  It's also a consequence of the human love of overgeneralizing.  All A are B.  "All vinyl is valuable."  Or, all A are not B.  "All vinyl is not valuable."  Antony Flew's solution?  "Not all A are B."  As in, "Not all vinyl is valuable."  True proposition.

Oh, the Today people.  Here they are.  At concerts, were they introduced as, "Tonight, the Today People!"?

DOWNLOAD: The Million Sellers by the Today People (Vocalion VL73868, 1969)

Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da

This Guy's in Love With You


The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Those Were the Days

Harper Valley P.T.A.

What a Wonderful World

Love Is Blue (L'Amour Est Bleu)

Little Arrows

Mony, Mony



Buster said...

For me, "Mony, Mony" is the ultimate awful record. I didn't like "Those Were the Days" very much back then, either - actually most of these songs were not favorites, except for "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and "Love Is Blue."

I was surprised to learn recently that "Love Is Blue" was written by Andre Popp, not Paul Mauriat. Apparently it was a Eurovision song.

Diane said...

Glad to have you back! This one looks like a doozy.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


That explains the "A. Popp" credit! And I didn't know that Eurovision fact.

I never liked "Mony, Mony" that much, either, but (and this is true) as a kid I had come up with the same phrase. So, when that song came out, it seemed like the title had somehow been swiped from me. A simple coincidence, but it spooked me out a little.


Thank you! This is elaborately done for a budget "latest hits" LP. It kind of reminds me of the excellent Terry Baxter collections for the Columbia Record Club. To this day, nobody knows who Terry was.

musicman1979 said...

And also don't forget reason #3; you have been busy posting items on TWO YouTube channels! At least you have been posting some really good ones over on Lee's Fake Hits. My favorites so far are the Floyd Williams "Duke of Earl", which makes the original by Gene Chandler sound like it was done by Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Broadway/Gilmar "Tallahassee Lassie", which probably had their Gilmar faithful look at the "Don Meeks" label credit and ask what had happened to Steve Marks and Jack Richards? However, it is much better than the Tops' version, in which it sounds like the producer overdubbed the Cannon-esque shouts (it's louder than the lead singer). Another fave is the Glitter's take on "Chains", which actually could be better than the original by the Cookies (like the post-session ending!) other faves are the Hep "Hound Dog" and "Rock Around The Clock."

Back to the album at hand: You surprised me again! I did not know Decca/Vocalion put out fake hits LP's, yet this should be a real good one. Not a real big fan of "Those Were the Days" myself; the only really good version that I like is Lawrence Welk's instrumental interpretation on his Galveston album. I was surprised to find out that you were not a fan of "This Guy's In Love With You" in addition to Herb Alpert's #1 hit version, there was also some great covers by Jackie Wilson (on his Do Your Thing album) and Andy Willams, the latter of which was in the vault until 2020, when it was released on the Real Gone Music CD Emporer of Easy: Lost Columbia Masters 1962-72.

You may have also explained to me why the vinyl section has slowed down to a trickle at my local Goodwill. I recently sent a bunch of '70's-'80's Rock LP's with big names a few weeks ago and NONE of them showed up on the shelf. However, I did manage to find last week some good one from artists like teh Three Suns, Doc Severinsen, Julie London, and JJ Johnson and Kai Winding. Looking forward to listening to this album and providing detailed comments later. PS: Like your new Hawaii Five-O Design Records find that you posted on Brand "X" Records.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


Thanks for the nice words! And, yes, my YT activity is a big factor--those rips sometimes take a good deal of work, as brief as they are. And the overdubbed "Woooo!"s on the Tops "Tallahassee Lassie" forced me to lower the volume spike at one point, just to get the entire track at an acceptable volume. I agree that "Chains" and "Duke of Earl" are especially good--amazingly so, almost. Re YouTube, something weird is going on, given the massive drop in viewing counts, plus comments that show up in notification but which fail to post. I just got a comment I'm not able to answer or upvote. It's there, yet it's not there! Something's wacky with the software and/or servers.

And I have to wonder how well GW's vinyl auctions are going. Both going online and jacking up the prices are bad decisions, if only because it makes more sense to price things to move--if an item doesn't sell, no money has been made. Obviously. Plus, thrift prices, when not jacked up, inspire people to take chances with albums they're not sure they'll like. If a 99-cent LP turns out to be a dud, nothing lose. At $3.99, however...

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Er, "nothing lost"!

musicman1979 said...

This version of "This Guy's In Love With You" has more of a beat than on the Bacharach-arranged Herb Alpert original. The uncredited singer, I think, is actually better than Herb Alpert surprisingly, yet he certainly nails down the feeling of Herb's original #1 hit version, which was done in one take. The pianist certainly nails down the Bacharach chords in the original version.

"Ob-Li-Di-Ob-La-Da" is actually one of the better Beatles fakes. By this time, the Fab 4 sound was getting more sophisticated and getting harder for fakers to imitate. This arrangement sounds like a chart Les Reed would make for Engelbert Humperdinck at Parrot, who could have done a great job with this Beatles tune, in my opinion.

This version of "Those Were the Days" is actually better than the Mary Hopkin original, which makes me want to turn the radio dial the minute it comes on the air. The uncredited singer is more along the lines of Vikki Carr and Caterina Valente than Mary Hopkin, which sounded like she singing in Judy Collins' style. The arrangement is also much more poppy and less tavern-sounding than the Mary Hopkin original recording. Like the horns toward the end, which I don't think was in the original recording.

GREAT version of "The Good the Bad and the Ugly." This is probably how Sammy Kaye would have recorded the song had Charles Albertine did the arrangement. The organ, horns, and more Poppy sound make it more palatable for folks who did not like the Spaghetti Western flavor of the Hugo Montenegro original.

"What A Wonderful World" is one of the few cuts on the album that has the feel of a cover instead of a fake hit arrangement. The female singer does a really good job on this, giving a nice, relaxing vocal to this Louis Armstrong classic made much more famous in the late-'80's thanks to Good Morning Vietnam.

The band really nails down the Nashville sound of "Harper Valley PTA." The female singer does a good job trying to nail down Jeannie C. Riley's sass, yet her vocals are much too pretty and at times you can certainly does not have Jeannie C. Riley's attitude, which helped to turn Tom T. Hall's lyrics into a #1 Pop and Country crossover smash hit.

Surprisingly, they did the cover treatment to "Love Is Blue", opting instead to cover the Al Martino vocal version with a female vocalist instead of copying the Paul Mauriat original. The female singer does a great job in the Caterina Valente style, plus the brass and organ do a great job on this tune. Hopefully this cover will get posted on Lee's Fake Hits along with "The Good The Bad and the Ugly."

"Little Arrows" is the only song in the set that was a hit for parent company Decca Records, the only major American hit for English singer Leapy Lee, a record I played a lot when I was a kid growing up in the late-'80's. The singer does a good job covering the tune, nailing his "You're falling in love again!" to a T. However, this version just doesn't quite have the sparkle and excitement that the original Leapy Lee version had.

I had high expectations for their cover of Tommy James and the Shondells '"Mony Mony", one of my favorites from this time period. However, it just doesn't quite have the drive, fun, and excitement of the original. This is also a little TOO polished for what is essentially a garage rock party song. This "Fake Hit" cover makes the Billy Idol remake much more tolerable.

Overall, mostly good collection, with a few standout cuts, yet a very mixed bag, with few hits and lots of misses. Yet it is still good enough to garner a three-star rating out of five from me.

Jim D. said...

Welcome back Lee. Missed you.
Look forward to hearing this gem.
We heard Harper Valley all the time on AM Detroit radio (not a fan because of the over saturation!) Of course anything Beatles was "sacred". Ha!
Concerning the Burt tunes: I really didn't obtain a real appreciation until much later in life ( I was a rocker, but also a closet ABBA fan) Ha!
Froggie! Arrivederci and other Ghoul references. Loved The Ghoul on Saturday night Detroit TV!!
Thanks again.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Jim D.,

Thanks! Glad to hear from a fellow Ghoul fan.

I'm a huge fan of Burt, and this is one of the very few Burt-Hal numbers that does nothing for me. I can't put my finger on why not.

Growing up in Toledo, I listened to a lot of Detroit radio!

Diane said...

Re Terry Baxter, I somehow ended up with a couple of those albums in my stash, and never gave them a thought. Now I'll take a listen.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


Thanks for your detailed review, and sorry for the delay in posting! I got caught up in other email... My bad.

Very interesting review, and re "Ob-Li-Di..." I've heard some pretty sad versions of this number, so yeah--this is a fine cover. And I share your regard for the "The Good, the Bad..." Also agreed on the too-polished sound of "Mony, Mony"--not my favorite hit in the first place, but it definitely calls for a raw treatment. As for "Arrows," I had mostly forgotten about that (from the day), and I'd have thought it had originated as a C&W recording. And I find myself admiring the clever lyrics while not digging the tune itself. But, surprisingly good, overall. This one could have gone south very easily!

Lee Hartsfeld said...


Let me know what you think of Baxter. My tastes are kind of quirky, and definitely not shared by everyone. You may find his music too easy-listening-ish (is that a term?). But I admire the tight studio musicianship and Terry's (whatever his name was) ability to capture the feeling of the originals. I've never heard anything under his name that was less than professionally produced.

musicman1979 said...

Forgot to mention my favorite version of "Rock Around the Clock" that you posted on Lee's Fake Hits is the Broadway version by Jack Richards and that the Value/Hit Parade version of "Why DO Fools Fall in Love" is copying the Gail Storm cover version on Dot Records.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


The Jack Richards RATC is the only fake which attempts the famous guitar solo--and quite well! Yes, it's a good version, though for some reason my favorite is Gabe Drake's on Prom. Which, weirdly enough, was featured by Record-O-Mail. The R-O-M 78 sounds way better than the Prom 45, so it's my "reference" version. (Not sure what I meant by that, but it sounds good!) And, yes, the pop version of "Fools" is being copied. The cover-of-a-cover routine. My budget label "Ko Ko Mo" versions take after the pop version, too (Perry Como). I actually think Perry did a fairly decent job with that one!

Timmy said...

A grandiose collection sure to keep the heart valves flowing. Thanx for another find of fabulous fakers!

Lee Hartsfeld said...


LOL! Very well put! And my pleasure. This one was crying out to be shared.

Andrew said...

This effort from Shaftesbury Productions was marketed to other labels and ended up issued in Spain and the Netherlands with a slightly different tracklist. Shaftesbury worked with the Michael John Singers (freelance sessioners), I don't know whether he is behind this, and haven't found out who "Michael John" was. I can, though, say it doesn't sound like the Mike Sammes outfit. Also the female soloist could be Jackie Lee but it is hard to tell. The main movers and shakers in the UK fake hits/ covers market were Bill Wellings and Bruce Baxter. This seems to be an outlier, albeit well-produced.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


Thanks for that information! I figured that Vocalion had received this material in a package-deal fashion, a la the Columbia Record Club and its "recorded in England" sound-alike tracks. I checked out Shaftesbury P. at Discogs, and there's a newer operation by the same name. But the older operation is easily found.

Ernie said...

Thanks for this one, Lee, not seen it or the follow-up before. I bet there's a UK issue of the same material out there somewhere, just waiting to be linked up on Discogs. I'm always surprised when I find some LP that's been issued numerous times under numerous names with numerous credits and some of the fine folks at Discogs have managed to tie them all together. Hard to get away with such shenanigans today as the world has gotten smaller, but I'm sure it still happens.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


Yes, based on Andrew's information, it seems there would be a UK edition. Years back, I discovered (on eBay) the UK equivalent of a Columbia Record Club "recorded in England" set. The UK edition included artist credits (fake or real, who knows?) whereas Columbia didn't bother. But I just encountered an LP not linked to its UK/Canada counterpart at Discogs, which only proves it's impossible to catch them all. But this was a complicated connection--the UK/Canada edition lacked the extra tracks of the famous US budget version. This would make the editions hard to cross-reference.